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Building a Case for Measuring Tools Without Damaging Them

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
IMO, stay away from foam and stick to hardwoods that have a history of being used for tool cabinet/box making like mahogany, maple, etc. Even cabinet grade plywood can be made to look fantastic. Felt and other fabrics are only an issue if the tools are left dry of lubrication in a humid environment. If you keep them maintained in a "sealed" box (sealed as in close fitting lid that latches well), then they'll be fine. If I have doubts, to help combat humidity I'll keep a desiccant pack in the box or drawer in question. You might even make a little pocket under a tool for it that still keeps it exposed to the enclosed atmosphere, but hides it from immediate view.

My dad had a business as a trunk restorer/builder for awhile and we still have a lot of hardware and accumulated design experience on hand, so on my list of to-do's is to make some small fitted tool cases of similar construction. They would be 1/4" to 3/8" plain plywood wrapped in canvas and then painted to seal and stiffen the outer case, before riveting the hardware in place and adding a liner of felt, canvas, or finished wood to the inside. IMO the liner choice has more to do with your expected work environment. If you work around lots of wet coolant soaked parts, sealed wood if not plastic or metal is best. If it's a cleaner environment, then felts and fabrics are fine. Look at how dirty your tools are now and consider that stuff getting wiped all over the inside of the case. Some foams are very durable, but most seem to break down over time or with oil or coolant on them.

I'll second what others say about making the pockets in the case so that the tools don't have to be set just one way to be put away. Dial calipers are easy to close up when you put them away, but things like spring dividers, combination rules, and micrometers IMO work better if retained with fitted blocks or pegs rather than a form fitted profile carved out of a solid piece. The other advantage of this is that if you lose or break a tool and need to replace it, you're less likely to have to modify the case or track down a now obsolete model of micrometer to fill the hole.

I'd also make the case so it's obvious which end is the top and the latches work best in that orientation. If you use the cases lid to retain tools, that means that gravity is going to need to keep them in place when opening and closing the lid, and that can get really annoying if you open the lid in a rush and the case is tilted or upside down. I like the idea of using toggled to hold the tools. A separate liner or tray between the sides IMO would be easy to set aside and forget.

Also keep in mind how is the case itself going to be stored. I like having cases for individual tools to take to and from machines or jobs around the shop, but sometimes they don't fit in the tool box drawer I'd like to keep them in, or the case takes up half the bench space. Do you plan to pack the case around in a satchel, store it on a shelf, carry it by a handle? All that can play into how the tools rest inside and how handy the case will actually be. My experience has been that all the day-to-day tools store best in a machinist chest small enough to be carried bench to bench, or live on a rolling tool box, which gives ample room for changes, and any other tools live in individual or set cases on the shelf to pull out only as needed. My main tool box is a wide Gerstener on an old steel Craftsman base. It can't be carried around, but it's small enough to roll around job to job and everything is where it's supposed to be.
 

Mike1974

Diamond
Joined
Nov 5, 2014
Location
Tampa area
I'm a little confused as to the questions about damaging the tools when stood upright, and/or so the tools are not flat...? It's wood, do you mean by not securing the tools?

I'm not a woodworker, but I play one online. :D I would route/machine the tool shapes in each side, then maybe glue a couple "dots" of rubber to the walls so when the tool is inserted into its shape the rubber presses it against the opposite side(s)?

Alternatively (unless this is more an aesthetic choice with wood) - 18 in. x 6 in. x 13 in. Black Aluminum Case
 

donie

Diamond
Joined
May 17, 2003
Location
Walla Walla Wine and Wild Turkey
A more complicated rifle case made of African Blood Wood. The case has multiple functions and is as compact as reasonably possible.
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Euclidean

Aluminum
Joined
Dec 13, 2020
Right here where all my diabolical ideas are hatched, on the un-hackable drafting table with full awfulmatic paper weight!
These two boxes made of western maple, with box joint corners
B174hi2.jpg
, and cheap hardware.

The box for the deep hole indicator was needed, before it ended up on the floor, that thing does not sit well on anything, it has a back plunger.
The box for my old import grinding vice was just added on to the effort.

yPKoiZO.jpg


Dont use western maple, I have to rip cut and laminate the wood so it doesnt warp!

That's really nice woodworking. Thanks for sharing that! I think I'm going to go with purpleheart since it is so stable.
 

Scottl

Diamond
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Eastern Massachusetts, USA
Carefully trace the outlines on heavy paper or card stock, cut them out and then use your "paper dolls" to play with layout until you are happy. Then trace around the patterns and rout a little shy of the lines. Then do final fit with gouges and chisels.
 

jermfab

Cast Iron
Joined
Jul 25, 2013
Location
atlanta, ga
One problem I have experienced is that when guys start building custom boxes they typically spend too much time considering the tool that will go into the box and not neatly enough time considering the space the box will ultimately reside in.

I would suggest first and foremost taking a look at the space where the boxes will go... that space, whether it’s a shelf unit, toolbox or sea-container should dictate the size of your boxes. After that I would also take a look at what’s available commercially, mostly because those company’s have taken the time to come up with sizes that fit into common spaces. You can get maximum yield in a box truck pretty easily with offerings from U-line or Contico. I would suggest applying a similar mentality to any boxes you make.


Best of luck.




Jeremy
 

donie

Diamond
Joined
May 17, 2003
Location
Walla Walla Wine and Wild Turkey
Space is a big consideration, and I have a cardboard box full of old Starrett, B&S and other small boxes, because most of the tools are in my larger tool box with drawers.
Design is a consideration, like heavy lids flipping the box over, and dumping the contents out.
I have an old B&S 24" Vernier caliper with a mahogany box that is designed so the caliper can be put back at any setting. The box for my 36" Scherr Tumico Vernier caliper is routed into solid wood, and the caliper has to returned to zero to put it back, a pain because who uses a 36" caliper for measuring near zero.
What often happens, I do not know why, machinist that get too old, suddenly start making things out of wood.
tkI1YjC.jpg


This is the third item I made last week it is a tray for holding this Starrett 6" 123 caliper. I made one some time back for a 12" also.
I find this more useful then a box, and the tool can be placed in at any setting, easy to pull out and offers a safe place for a fine tool.
 

Limy Sami

Diamond
Joined
Jan 7, 2007
Location
Norfolk, UK
Something or nothing, and my apologies if I've posted it before.

Nobody's mentioned a dodge when sticking baize or felt to wooden boxes and cabinets ;-

Paint PVA adhesive on to the wood (2 coats if it soaks in too much) and leave to dry, ........then iron the cloth in to place with a medium hot clothes iron (or odd shaped bit of metal for where the iron won't fit.

That method enures you don't get ''soak through'' of too much adhesive, ......or worse still adhesive where you don't want it (aka sticky fingers)

Just my 2 cents and of course YMMV .but it works for me.
 

PeteM

Diamond
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Location
West Coast, USA
I'll be the lone voice suggesting that some foam rubbers are now much more durable than the (polyurethane, I suspect) stuff of Mitutoyo foam rot days. That stuff broke down within years and became a gooey, crumbly, corrosive mess. As close to a crying shame as a precision tool case can get.

However, something like a neoprene foam can have decent UV protection and oil resistance and last decades. Easy to cut. Layer below. A quick #11 X-acto blade cut out for the tool. Then a layer of neoprene foam above. Anyone who actually uses their tools will surely know if or when ever it needs replacing. Even Mitutoyo has found some foam fitted cases that stand the test of decades of time. A digital caliper came in one. An expensive set of Pana thread mics in another.

FWIW, I still have a power tool case lined with neoprene-backed commercial carpet made over 50 years ago for a college-days "workshop" in the trunk of my old Chevy. Dirty, but still functional -- and the foam rubber backing still OK. Even wetsuits, subject to extreme UV, abrasion, and salt water, last a surprisingly long time.

In other cases (literally), wool felt, cotton, or velour-lined cases have protected tools from damage and rust for over a century. Far as I can tell, it's humidity and not cloth or foam contact (the Mitutoyo corrosive - maybe slightly acidic maybe urea example - excepted) that causes tools to rust.

Some old Halliburton-type camera cases have their foam innards still fine after 30 or more years.

I've made fitted wood cases for especially valuable and rarely used optical and measuuring instruments-- and 3D printed liners could also make sense. And as others have said, if you use oak then rust within days is a possibility. If I make something like a drill index, it isn't oak and the holes are soaked in oil for a couple days.

But why put $100 worth of labor into a case to protect a $25 tool from rattling around while being transported?
 

bhigdog

Stainless
Joined
Jul 20, 2005
Location
Eastern PA
And as others have said, if you use oak then rust within days is a possibility.

Gerstner has used white oak for tool boxes for 115 years and counting. Just sayin.......Bob
 

thermite

Diamond
Joined
Sep 21, 2011
Location
Sol, Terra
And as others have said, if you use oak then rust within days is a possibility.

Gerstner has used white oak for tool boxes for 115 years and counting. Just sayin.......Bob

Annnnd.. I have still put-by.. a SMALL lot of cherry.. and even a skosh of Black Walnut.. that G'Dad cut sometime in the NINETEEN 20's

Plus a MUCH larger slab of Redwood burl still a seasoning - that I purchased near Richmond, Cali ..... around 1986?

Fine woods?

Primary ingredient is a tree. Living creatures, those are.

Equally important one?

TIME! To get shut of the volatiles. Same as mummification, animal kingdom, in a way. Fossilized, even.

Be sixty year this August since I made first-use of the Cherry. Too impatient, I was. The hammer handle actually needed re-wedged.

Once!

Might start to use the rest of these worthies in a few more years?

I did say "TIME?"

"Kiln dried?"

Heating is cheating.

Hell ain't going anywhere in no hurry, is it?

Why should I be in a rush?

Just wait.

Or scout you some already OLD wood.

Might be as close as "Goodwill" as an over-age-in-grade "real-wood" table and chair (the seats) set. Or ONE short run .... of old, old native American Chestnut as was once part of a barn or outbuilding.

Think on it:

Not as if you needed enough to build a whole dam' ARK in one go is it?

Fine tool cases?

"A little dab'll do yah!"

No two alike?

Ain't that jest grand?

:D
 

JST

Diamond
Joined
Jun 16, 2001
Location
St Louis
donie, that rifle case is, well, REALLY NICE! I like it. Very "British hunting safari".

Something or nothing, and my apologies if I've posted it before.

Nobody's mentioned a dodge when sticking baize or felt to wooden boxes and cabinets ;-

Paint PVA adhesive on to the wood (2 coats if it soaks in too much) and leave to dry, ........then iron the cloth in to place with a medium hot clothes iron (or odd shaped bit of metal for where the iron won't fit.

That method enures you don't get ''soak through'' of too much adhesive, ......or worse still adhesive where you don't want it (aka sticky fingers)

Just my 2 cents and of course YMMV .but it works for me.

I no longer will use PVA and yellow glues for that. I found they caused rust. Maybe the PVA is less inclined to do it.

I use hide glue, and while I do not use the heat method, it will work pretty well with hide glue also. The line workers covering cabinets with "Tolex" fabric-backed plastic did that. They used hot hide glue mixed with water, and applied by machine to the Tolex. If something was found to be not stuck down right after cooling, a quick heating of the glue with a small ciggy lighter would allow the covering to stick down properly.
 

Euclidean

Aluminum
Joined
Dec 13, 2020
I'lBut why put $100 worth of labor into a case to protect a $25 tool from rattling around while being transported?


I'm not. There are several hundreds of dollars worth of tools going into that case. I'm having a little problem around here with someone constantly touching and moving these tools. It's going to get really expensive really fast to have to keep replacing them. I want them in a box where I can keep them out of, shall we say "curious hands." I had a brand new Starrett 20 destroyed already.
 

donie

Diamond
Joined
May 17, 2003
Location
Walla Walla Wine and Wild Turkey
I have been using Allen brand gun cleaning mat, and cutting them up. The Allen mat is neoprene backed, with synthetic black felt face. I used that in the rifle case.
Any tricks out there I am glad to hear them!

The rifle case, I modeled somewhat from a custom bolt action African game rifle, I happened to see. The owner actually went to Africa, went on a big drunk, didnt hunt, but had a case made of exotic wood, and came home in one piece.
The leather straps are from the rifle case on the Ouigly down under movie, just had to do that! And its only a 22lr but has iron sights along with a scope mount, making it fit the overall flavor of the real thing.
 

Euclidean

Aluminum
Joined
Dec 13, 2020
I'll second what others say about making the pockets in the case so that the tools don't have to be set just one way to be put away. Dial calipers are easy to close up when you put them away, but things like spring dividers, combination rules, and micrometers IMO work better if retained with fitted blocks or pegs rather than a form fitted profile carved out of a solid piece. The other advantage of this is that if you lose or break a tool and need to replace it, you're less likely to have to modify the case or track down a now obsolete model of micrometer to fill the hole.

Would you happen to have/know of a picture of fitted blocks/pegs where this could work for the lid storage?

Do you plan to pack the case around in a satchel, store it on a shelf, carry it by a handle?

Kind of like my wooden chisel box, I plan to keep it flat on a bench until I need to take it somewhere, then it will fit within a sleeve like a book on its side inside the pouch of a bag. That's why I'm concerned that the tools resting on the side in their box might get damaged, like bending a square blade.
 

thermite

Diamond
Joined
Sep 21, 2011
Location
Sol, Terra
That's why I'm concerned that the tools resting on the side in their box might get damaged, like bending a square blade.

Art & drafting supply has what you need.

Rubber cement them to a slab of armour plate for the trip.

Rubber-cement comes off clean as can be.

BTDTGGTS, works a treat. Monthly report some REMF Captain in Siagon Depot was too lazy to keep sorted when he could claim he never got it and demand another copy.

Third go got him the armour plate mounted one. And fired.
When he threw a hissy fit and tried to file charges or impertibordination or similar sounding chickens**t.!

Colonel Commanding knew damned well those reports had ALWAYS come in on time.

Blame-gamer had not been aware the CO got the original, Directly! as I briefed him! Wasn't his ONLY "lost report" either. Just his last.

Which war zone was it you were carrying these poor tools into, again?

:D
 

thermite

Diamond
Joined
Sep 21, 2011
Location
Sol, Terra
The zone where someone thought my brand new square was a pry bar to open paint cans. :’(

ROFL!

Sorry..... it just reminded me of Mother.. SO very proud she had so very quickly found a way to put up hasty curtains to add a woman's touch to making a drear left-over-from-war of-1812-days, dawn of the Korean War military quarters look homey.

She had paid-out wire off a roll, right-hand hammering in nails whilst holding nail and roll in the left hand. Hung a pillow case, on to the next window.

Dad smiles. Looks closer. Frowns. Sez "where did you find THAT kind of wire?"

Goes kinda bloodless when she sez: "It was wound around this handy little metal tube thing!" and hands it to him.

He takes it down to the stone basement. Puts it on the floor. Stacks a heap of saved-up newspapers atop it.

Goes around a safe corner with the ends of the wire. Puts them into an electric lamp socket.

Flips the switch.

And a Corps of Engineers standard-issue #8 electric blasting cap fills the basement with confetti!

You don't need an armoured tool case, Pilgrim.

You just need a broader-spectrum insect repellant!

That damned fool was a bug, not a feature!

:D
 








 
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